ROWLETT (CBS11) – Surrounded by newly rebuilt homes on Davis Street in Rowlett sits Rene Rushati’s empty lot.
Twenty months after a tornado destroyed his neighborhood, his family of five have no home to return to.
“We’re paying the apartment now and the mortgage,” he said.
His next door neighbor Bill Lindsey says Rushati was well ahead of him getting started rebuilding.
He watched workers clear the land and dig trenches for the plumbing.
“And, then, they just disappeared. There was no work being done at all,” he recalls.
Rushati says the contractor he hired walked away from the job, taking $80,000 of the insurance money with him.
“It was a shock,” he recalls.
Then, word got out on social media, and Justin Blackburn decided to do something.
“I said, ‘I’m coming out at seven o’clock, anyone want to come?’ And then, people started showing up,” said Blackburn.
Tonight, neighbors came with rakes, weedeaters, and a desire to help.
Many lost homes themselves.
“I lost everything,” said Blackburn.
“All our homes were totally devastated,” said Lindsey.
Most have returned, though.
The city of Rowlett says it issued 2,044 construction permits to tornado victims.
Eighty-six percent are now complete.
“Wow. Wow. This is incredible. I can’t believe it,” said Rushati, arriving at his property.
Rushati says he almost lost faith.
Now a new contractor has come forward offering to help, and neighbors have cleared away the tall grass and weeds.
Suddenly , he says, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s amazing. I’m so relieved,” he said.